Month: June 2014

Skype is it the answer to extension?

I was apprehensive as I walked into the meeting with my son’s principal today. When you have children like mine (both profoundly gifted and one with aspergers) you tend to have lots of meetings with principals and teachers and support staff and district advisors, even the window cleaner or at least it seems that way.

I am pleased to report I left feeling excited and encouraged! My son has a keen interest in History- well medieval history and further then that medieval weaponry. Not subject taught in the depth he wants to learn about if even touched on at all in primary school (he is 9).

 

After a particularly hard patch with him quite upset about the boredom in school, at his request we started looking into the possibility of sending him to a high school for one lesson a week so he had at least one thing to look forward to. Not ideal I know he is very young but his entire life has played out differently to you ‘stock standard’ child’s.

Rather then being told it wasn’t going to happen and that he would need to learn to deal with it, the principal suggested we try a special mentoring lesson once a week where he would have contact on a one to one basis with a high school history teacher who has just retired and is looking at giving something back to education. His commitments mean he may not be present every week but it looks like Skype has been organised to occur when he can’t be at the school in person.

What an era we live in where technology opens doors for those who would have otherwise been left standing alone. Skype is but one of the amazing things that we can do if we are prepared to think outside the box.

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ICT reflections from prac

Tonight I have begun to reflect on the ICT experiences I had during prac just as my fellow students begin to tred the same path. I have found it invaluable to read through the reflection of others. Whilst this list is not exhaustive it is the start of what will morph into the final assignment for my ICT course. 

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I have found this process challenging and enlightening. It is a surreal feeling to analyse what you have taught. Are you so critical you can’t see and appreciate what has been done well or are you blinded by your ICT prowess that good pedagogy gets thrown out with the bath water?

A lesson for us all to remember is that even though we are approaching the end of our degrees we are far from the end of our learning journey. We can always do things to improve our teaching and should strive to implement new ideas. I feel it is also important to take stock of what we do well, even if this is just to have something to look back on after those really hard days when things don’t work out!

 

Connected classroom

What an exhilarating feeling when I successfully made and connected a Skype call between my year 3 prac class and a 2/3 composite class from another school. Skype offers so many opportunities for education.

The technical issues were quite tedious to overcome but I never let that defeat me. As the school had no wifi connection was an issue. The school computer had no web cam and whilst I was able to bring in my own laptop, the school wasn’t too keen on giving me all the login details I needed to connect it to the internet. 

Plan B: Connect to the internet using my iPhone as a hot spot. Great idea but this too was also draped in difficulty. Thankfully I had a very supportive teacher from another school (who happens to be my sons teacher) that spend two afternoons trying to connect in a trial run. The first day didn’t work at all only ringing then cutting out. We tried FaceTime but this too wouldn’t connect.

When I was about to concede defeat a last minute walk around holding my phone out to all areas trying to improve the reception gave a signal strong enough to support the call. This did result in me having my phone perched on the verandah railing in order to maintain the signal. I ended up wrapping tape around my phone so it didn’t fall off. I am grateful it didn’t rain!

Coming from a classroom that has never had any experience like this (the computers in the classroom were turned on once during the 3 week period and only at my request) the kids were very excited. Was it hard to settle them? Yes. Were they interested and engaged in the learning? Yes. Was it beneficial, interesting and exciting? Yes.

I’m looking forward to using this technology again. Interviewing authors, politicians, scientists the opportunities are only bound by our imaginations.

Quotes from my mentor “ICTs are only for entertainment”

It is with a mixture of sadness and relief that the final week of my prac comes to a close. Sadness because I have to leave the students I have gotten to know and like and relief to be away from the outdated and often cynical opinions of my mentor who is only weeks away from retirement. 

I have enough life experience to appreciate different teaching styles and strengths. This is what has pulled me through the past 3 weeks. My teaching style focuses on groups work and students building their own understanding in a hands-on learning environment. The complete opposite to my mentor.

I had to watch her teach the students the algorithm for adding money following a lesson that revealed they had no idea at all of he concept. When I suggested they needed more experiences and time her response was I had to learn by just doing what I was told. The students proceeded to parrot exactly what was written on the chalk board. However when I went around asking the students to explain they had NO idea what they were actually doing. I understand that didactic teaching has a place. What shocked me was the vast difference in opinion I had to my mentor in relation to its application.

I also had to print every piece of correspondence as my mentor refused or couldn’t use email. I know this was an extreme case but interesting to see. I think it is time for a new wave of teachers to take the reigns. There are many reasons why teachers don’t use technology– my mentor had many more then these. It was an interesting placement for an ICT prac. I did manage to hold a Skype session with another school where our classes exchanged strategies used to answer a series of maths questions. The response was ‘that was good for a bit of fun but now you will need to mark the work because the kids don’t know whats going on’ (this was what we did over Skype). This kids loved it and continued to ask if they could Skype for every lesson after this.

They also responded well to the group work i incorporated into the lessons. I has a student comment to me on our back from a group research task in the computer lab that she had never learnt so much in her life and she thought her head might burst. Interestingly this was the same lesson the teacher called a halt to as she felt the students weren’t engaged in the task. Group work has so many positives I think the students should get to experience this at least some of the time.

The 45+ years experience was invaluable and I am grateful for the experience. I shall not be defeated by comments of ICT only being used to entertain and that the students don’t learn anything. My stance couldn’t be further from this.